November generally proves gangbusters on the Garden State’s sweet water scenes, north, central and south. This has been especially evident in the past few years. Generally, warm autumn and relatively mild temperatures into December have kept aquatic metabolisms clicking and allowed anglers to stay on the water longer.
Barring a prolonged cold snap, which is rare but can certainly be there, this Thanksgiving month should indeed be bountiful for sure, especially on those 19 still water venues throughout 12 counties that will be graced with generous loads of fat ‘n sassy 14- to 16-inch 2-year old rainbow trout averaging a muscular 2 pounds. In excess of 4,600 ‘bows will be loosed on the Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 22-23) of Thanksgiving Week, providing near-instant rod bending opportunities.
However, there is more to the waters being stocked. Sometimes a lot more. Ranging from the shallow and weedy 3-acre Rowands Pond in Camden County to the deep and dark101-acre Lake Aeroflex in Sussex County, there are other species that will prove cooperative, primarily panfish, largemouth bass, and pickerel. And how about trophy muskies, landlocked salmon, and jumbo channel catfish? On more than a few, boats (also ‘yaks and canoes) are allowed, and ramps make for quick and easy access. Power is limited to electric motor only.
Some of the surprise encounters can leave you talking to yourself. Having already iced a pair of rainbows for that evening’s dinner, I was working a 1/8-ounce jig/Mr. Twister Sassy Shad for slab crappies from the bank on the November stocked 56-acre Furnace Lake in Warren County just off Route 31 in the hamlet of Oxford. The escape effort after the hookup told of a decent size crappie, or maybe one of the plentiful palm-size bluegills. There was no chance to find out because in a sudden rush of water accompanied by a violent tug and downward pull to the ultra-light spinning rod, it was all over. The 6-pound test Fireline went limp, but not before a few feet were stripped from the tiny reel in a furious rotation flurry.
Fast forward five or so weeks later, and suspicions were confirmed while observing what was a 3-plus-foot muskie being pulled through a hole in the ice looked like.
While casting silver Phoebe and silver/blue Mepps Little Wolf spoons on Lake Aeroflex in Sussex County, we’ve caught landlocked salmon to 20 inches and have seen longer, bulkier ones landed. And through the ice? Salmonicide! “The winter stocking program provides super trout fishing during the Thanksgiving holiday season and beyond, but there’s a lot more happening besides the trout,” said Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries chief Shawn Crowse. “These waters were carefully chosen not only for access, but for the additional fishing opportunities they provide,” Crowse said, adding “Bass, catfish, pickerel, panfish and even muskies and salmon. A Happy Thanksgiving, for sure!”
A prime spot north is Lake Aeroflex with its trout, salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and panfish. Centrally, it’s the 49-acre Lake Shenandoah with its big bass and channel catfish and rogue muskie. Trout and bass-wise south, the 30-acre South Vineland Park Lake is a fish factory, complete with a concrete ramp and approximately 75% shoreline access.